From LSU Sports
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The LSU softball team collected a No. 10 national ranking as the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) released its Top 25 preseason poll on Tuesday. It marked the first time since 2008 that the Tigers will be ranked inside the Top 10 to start the season.
Coming off the program's third Women's College World Series appearance, LSU brings back 12 letterwinners from a squad that turned in a 40-25 mark. The Tigers have been ranked inside the poll in 95 of the last 103 editions of the poll going back to the 2006 season.
LSU slated to square off 21 times against Top 25 competition, including 12 tilts versus six teams that appeared in the 2012 NCAA Super Regional round.
Joining the Tigers from the SEC among the Top 25 is defending national champion and No. 1 Alabama along with No. 6 Tennessee, No. 8 Missouri, No. 9 Georgia, No. 14 Florida and No. 17 Texas A&M.
Non-conference ranked opponents on LSU's 2013 ledger include No. 5 Oregon, No. 13 Arizona, No. 15 Michigan, No. 18 Louisville, No. 19 UCLA, No. 22 North Carolina and No. 25 Florida State. The Tigers also will meet BYU, Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Alabama, Syracuse and Tulsa who are listed among the receiving votes portion of the poll during the 2013 campaign.
"There's no doubt that we have our work cut out for us and will face a strong mix of the nation's elite programs throughout the season," head coach Beth Torina said. "We're pleased with the No. 10 ranking but know it's not about where you start the season it's where you finish. I firmly believe our team will be ready to meet all of the challenges ahead, and our goal is to be one of the eight teams playing in June in Oklahoma City."
Rachele Fico, a 2012 NFCA All-America First-Team and USA Softball Top 25 Player of the Year Finalist, is coming off the second 20-win season of her career. Her 1.12 ERA and 13 shutouts last season ranked fourth and fifth in the nation, respectively.
Fico secured NCAA College Station Regional and NCAA Columbia Super Regional MVP honors. The Connecticut native enters her senior season 35 Ks away from becoming the fifth pitcher in program history to reach 600 career strikeouts.
Allison Falcon was second on the team in batting average, home runs and RBIs last season. She platted what proved to be the game-winning run on a RBI-single during the Tigers 3-2 win over eventual national champion Alabama and equaled her career-high with three RBIs as part of a 2-for-3 effort as LSU notched a 6-1 win over No. 9 Missouri to open the NCAA Columbia Super Regional.
Simone Heyward is looking to build on a memorable 2012 NCAA postseason where she scored the game's only run during LSU's 1-0 walk-off win over Texas State and blasted a three-run double in the rubber game of the NCAA Columbia Super Regional to erase a 1-0 deficit at No. 9 Missouri.
LSU is 17 days away from 2013 opening weekend where the Tigers will play host to Hampton, No. 22 North Carolina, Purdue and Tulsa as part of the Tiger Classic from February 8-10.
Season tickets can be purchased for $75 at www.LSUtix.net for a marquee home schedule that features 15 games against 2012 NCAA Tournament participants. The Tigers also will welcome defending national champion Alabama along with Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina for three-game SEC series.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @bethtorina on Twitter.